Is Your Information Safe Online?
Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you know all the ways that you’re being tracked through the Internet and your smartphone? Data aggregators, including Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and more, are tracking everything you do. Are you okay with that?
When we post things online, perform web searches, and write emails, many of us assume that that information is private. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The information that is found through this mining is stored on a database and with the right resources, this information can be pulled together and given to those interested.
Reported in the New York Times article, “The Web Means the End of Forgetting,” such a thing happened to Stacy Snyder, a 25-year-old student teacher who in 2008 posted a picture of herself drunk on her MySpace page. Because of that photo, the university denied her degree just weeks before her impending graduation. She’s not the only one. Others have lost jobs for posting negative things on Facebook about their jobs. Some companies even require you to login to Facebook before they will hire you. Suddenly, there’s no disconnect between your personal life and your professional life; the Internet is bridging the gap.
Apps Tracking What You Do
But it’s not just the Internet that is tracking what you do. Apps that you put on your phone can track you as well. For example, Pandora reportedly asks you to give it permission to track your location. Many apps ask for this; it makes sense for a map app or for one that helps you find cheap gas near where you’re at. But why would Pandora need to know where you are?
Other apps are doing even worse. Researchers analyzed 10,000 apps for Android cell phones and found that 8 percent of them ask users for access to the International Mobile Equipment Identity number, a unique code given to each cell phone. There is no reason these apps would need this unique identifier.
Is It Possible to Be Private Online?
In an interview with Tom Ashbrook on Boston’s NPR station, Michael Fertik privacy advocate and CEO of Reputation.com, shared the idea that there needs to be a barrier between us and the companies that we interact with.
So if you want to go on Netflix and indicate which movies you like and what you don’t like, it’s anonymous. Instead of connecting these preferences to our real names, it would be connected to something like user10537. So it is possible, but will it happen?
For now, be careful about what you post online and check the privacy settings on all social media websites.
Facebook’s new policy for celebrities
Facebook is moving to verified accounts for celebrities, and they will be able to create other accounts with fake names.
Finding fun gifts online
Shoppers went crazy this year on Black Friday as they snapped up deals everywhere. Some stores went so far as to open on Thanksgiving night. But the increases there were matched by the surge in activity on Cyber Monday. Online shopping is now part of the mainstream, as people realize the the selection and prices are amazing.
While deals are great, the best part of the web has to do with variety and uniqueness. You can find so many cool gift ideas with a little bit of research and imagination. Mainstream gift ideas are fine, but think of stuff that is a little different.
Think about stuff like ideas for sexy costumes. Of course this will only apply to certain people on your list, but women in particular love to dress up for parties. Girlfriends also like to dress up for you, so a sexy costume can be an incredible stocking stuffer. You can pick anything from80s costumes to hot Wonder Woman costumes.
If you’re armed with a woman’s size (don’t get this wrong!), then you can find a ton of cool stuff online. Of course you should also get her a romantic gift like maybe jewelry or a watch, and naturally everyone likes gadget gifts this time of year. But a sexy gift like a costume for a party you’re taking her to might end up as her favorite gift! Happy hunting!
Just start searching online and you’ll find plenty of stuff.
Online research is always critical
With the shopping frenzy of the holidays, there are so many deals out there your head will spin thinking about them. Also, your list of items can get ridiculously long.
Does anyone shop blindly today? Do you ever just walk into a store, browse around and buy something? I guess that still happens, particularly with things like clothes, but with gadgets, electronics and bigger stuff like cars, doing research online before you venture into a store or showroom is critical if you want to make a smart purchase. First, you have to get a better idea of what you want to buy, and then you can think about what deals are available so you can save money.
The good thing is that there’s a ton of helpful information out there on gadgets, electronics and cars. You can browse expert reviews and then look for reactions from consumers. Cast a wide net, and if you’re open minded and flexible, you can end up with amazing deals.
If you think about cars, for example, you can use an online used car price guide to arm yourself with information before walking into a car dealership. Now, like I said, flexibility is important. If you’re dead set on a 60s Mustang or a used Porsche 911 , then obviously you will have less leverage. But if you have a variety of potential cars you want, you’ll do much better.
The same applies to electronics. You might not be able to negotiate in the stores, but you’ll see auctions for products. If you’re not married to one product, you will do better with price.
Google launches Google+
It’s been a long time coming, but Google has finally made a serious entry into the social media market. It took three attempts – you remember Wave and Buzz right? No? That’s okay, no one does – but it looks like Google may finally have a winner on its hands.
Still, Google+ has a long way to go. The service has launched to a relatively small group of users and continue to be limited by invites, but that could provide the kind of hype Google wants for a new service. Here’s an excerpt from an article I wrote about the service for Bullz-Eye:
One of the coolest parts of Google+ is Hangout, which allows users to jump into text and video chat rooms with customizable accessibility. It’s a product that could easily punch a hole in Skype and become an amazing productivity tool. That’s especially true for the companies that have made the transition to Google’s online products.
Sparks, on the other hand, is the service’s big flop. It’s meant to be some sort of social news feed, but it’s cumbersome instead of sleek, slow instead of fast, and skimpy where it should be overflowing with information. Sparks actually surprises me in its shortcomings. Google has mountains of information about me. I’m always signed in to its email service, I use the search engine exclusively, I have an Android phone, I use Google Reader on a daily basis, and I’m writing this article in Google Docs. Why is it so hard for me to get a decent feed on Sparks?
For the rest of the article, head over to the Bullz-Eye Gadgets channel.
LulzSec gets personal
It’s an odd thing for the entire world to be aware of tech news, especially news as tech specific as the hacking that’s been going on courtesy of the group Lulz Security. The hacking group has gained notoriety after taking information from some high profile targets. Now they’re potentially poised to send a man to prison, but they still manage to enjoy some serious public support. It’s a strange situation.
I put together an article for Bullz-Eye that breaks down LulzSec’s various exploits and their implications for web culture. Here’s a quick excerpt:
LulzSec claims that it hacks to expose the vulnerabilities in the system. The group doesn’t think the members are at fault for the data leaks, either. After the Sony leak, the group tweeted, “Hey innocent people whose data we leaked: blame @Sony.” I’m not going to touch the issue of fault here – there just isn’t time – but I do think its time people educate themselves about account security and password strength. The reason the Sony leak was a problem was that people used the same password for that site as for their personal emails, Facebook accounts, Amazon accounts (with one-click ordering enabled) and Paypal accounts.
Head over to the Gadgets channel to read the full article.
8 Free and Paid Ways to Watch Uninterrupted TV—Anytime.
TV is a great way to unwind after a long day of doing whatever work you do. Of course, when you get home from working, you’re probably still too wired to want to just lay around like a couch potato. With TV, you have to go by when the network tells you your favorite shows are going to come on. This is the 21st century, and these days, it’s all about when you want to watch something. That’s why the Internet and directstartv have the best sources for shows.
The following list includes a bunch of ways you can watch your TV, even if you don’t want a TV. Why does anybody pay for cable, when they still have to endure ads? On top of that, you have to work within somebody else’s schedule. All things considered, it’s downright nuts. So let’s take a look at a few websites that allow you to watch TV when you want to, as opposed to when “the Man” tells you it’s okay.
If you’ve never heard of Youtube, you have a real problem on your hands. Fortunately, it’s a problem you can solve by traveling to this video utopia. It has been theorized that if Youtube doesn’t have a video of it, it probably doesn’t exist. The sheer volume of videos is enough to keep you occupied indefinitely, chasing every stray whim and curiosity you can muster.
How many websites will show you adorable movies of guinea pigs, horrible videos of auto accidents, and awesome videos of how to choke out a tough fighter in under ten seconds? While there are undoubtedly others out there, Youtube is by far the best known.
2. Graboid Video
Graboid Video is a site with over 150,000 full-length videos on it. While it’s free to try out, you will have to pay if you want to use it indefinitely. Granted, that’s a fairly small downside, but some Internet purists will at least want fair warning before going to a “capitalist” site.
You could almost call Dailymotion the Leia to Youtube’s Luke. While these two sites aren’t actually related, they are about the same age and size. They’re also both successful, though Dailymotion doesn’t get nearly the press coverage — or nearly as many lawsuits.
If you want to find a great video to watch, this is a great site to check out because of the abundance of content Youtube would have if it had less lawsuits. Read the rest of this entry »
Zuckerberg’s Facebook fan page got hacked
Yesterday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had his fan page hacked. The virtual intruders posted the message you see at right, which reads,
Let the hacking begin: If facebook needs money, instead of going to the banks, why doesn’t Facebook let its users invest in Facebook in a social way? Why not transform Facebook into a ‘social business’ the way Nobel Price winner Muhammad Yunus described it? http://bit.ly/fs6rT3 What do you think? #hackercup201
The message was removed fairly quickly (by taking down the page), but not before it received some 1800 “likes” from Zuckerberg fans. Facebook still hasn’t commented on the incident.
I do want to remind people not to panic. As much as it looks like Facebook is insecure, this was a targeted attack against a high-profile page. It’s pretty unlikely someone would be hacking your personal Facebook page just to find out where you went to highschool.
MySpace cuts 47 percent of its workforce
This rumor’s been floating around for a couple weeks and finally came true. MySpace is officially cutting 47 percent of its workforce, some 500 employees. The company said the cuts are “to provide the company with a clear path for sustained growth and profitability.”
I’ve got some bad news for you MySpace. Even after the cuts, it looks like you guys might still employ more people than you have users. You’re gonna need traffic if you want these cuts to work. I just don’t know how realistic that is.
Did Facebook already peak?
There’s more talk than usual about Facebook these days, thanks to the big investment from Goldman-Sachs that could lead to an IPO this year. As investment opportunity looms large for the social giant, a lot of people are carefully examining the company to see whether or not it’s worth dropping some cash on shares.
There’s a lot to read, and while some of it is virtually useless (sorry, I don’t care whether 50 Cent thinks Facebook is worth $50 billion or not), there are a couple of standout articles. The most interesting I found was an article on CNN, in which Douglas Rushkoff compares the potential Facebook IPO to the AOL/Time Warner merger. It sounds a little off base, until you see just what Rushkoff is talking about.
Here’s a peek:
Indeed, 11 years ago this week, when AOL announced its $350 billion merger with Time Warner, I was asked to write an OpEd for the New York Times explaining what the deal between old and new media companies really meant. I said that AOL was cashing in its over-valued dotcom stock in order to purchase a stake in a “real” media company with movie studios, theme parks and even cable. In short, the deal meant AOL knew their reign was over.
The Times didn’t run the piece. Of course, the merger turned out to be a disaster: AOL’s revenue stream was reduced to a trickle as net users ventured out onto the Web directly.
Rushkoff goes on to cite other examples of overvaluation in the tech sector and makes a compelling case against a Facebook boom.
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